AS BABIES, kids engage in an ongoing terror campaign that is designed to drive their parents insane. They employ an ingenious array of weapons that includes bed-wetting, regurgitation and, in the case of boys, projectile urination. It's all very disgusting, but they are so cute that we love them anyway.
As kids grow older, their techniques change, but their goal is the same: They are intent on diminishing their parents' mental capacity. By doing so, they set up a dynamic that will someday allow them to go buck wild as their parents sit drooling in a corner. Infants, for example, do all their food shopping on the floor. This not only saves them money but also reduces their parents to shivering mounds of anxiety whose sole job is preventing their kids from ingesting quarters.
Toddlers? They pretend they can't walk so their parents can stick close by. Fools that we are, we hold onto their little hands to steady them, oblivious to the fact that they're playing us for fools. I believe these little people can do much more than walk. In fact, I think they're fully capable of doing the Mambo, the Mashed Potatoes, the Wu-Tang and the Electric Slide. They just like the attention that comes with the hand-holding wobble.
By the time they turn 5, however, things begin to change and kids become really useful. At that age they make great chimney sweeps because they can get into all the little ash-filled crevices that adults simply can't reach. They make excellent paperweights for people like me who have entire manuscripts to hold in place. They are great at getting slippers, washing cars and loading dishwashers (though I don't recommend allowing 5-year-olds to wash dishes by hand unless you've got a dirty fork fetish).
While kids are on the upswing by the time they reach 5, the damage to their parents' brains is pretty much irreparable by then. The combination of sleep deprivation, disgusting cleanups, boo-boo kissing and the sheer horror of seeing someone who looks and acts just like you is enough to drive anyone insane. The overall effect is that parents lose the ability to remember things, especially once they're older than 40.
LaVeta recently received a startling reminder of this phenomenon. She was helping Eve get ready for school. In the process, LaVeta tried to remember one of those insignificant little facts that begin to elude you once the rigors of parenting
have fried your brain cells. She couldn't.
I asked LaVeta about the incident recently, and she recalled it, although barely. "I just remember that it was in the morning," my wife said. "I was brushing Eve's hair and she reminded me about something, and I said, 'You're my surrogate memory'."
And that's when it hit us. Kids not only make great paperweights. They're also excellent memory surrogates.
Now, before you poo-poo the idea as another way-out Jones family creation, hear me out. Politicians use surrogates to make appearances on their behalf. Computer geeks use the surrogate key to replace the natural primary key (whatever that is). Women use surrogate mothers to have babies for them. Somebody even made a surrogate movie.
If kids are the ones who fry their parents' brains, shouldn't their healthy little brains act as surrogates? If their insidious campaign of terror has robbed us of the ability to remember things, shouldn't they have to step in and do it for us? I say yes!
I refuse to sit in the corner drooling because of what my kids have done to me. I will not give up my quality of life because I can't remember where I parked. I won't give in to the memory loss that's plagued me as a 40-something parent. I'm going to go outside, get in my car and drive downtown to protest.
Just as soon as Eve remembers where I put my keys.
Solomon Jones' column appears every Saturday. He can be reached at